Matt DiBenedetto said he and Aric Almirola have talked via text messages and are “fine” with each other in the days following their run-in after the checkered flag at Pocono and DiBenedetto’s heated confrontation with Almirola on pit road.
In an interview Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Dialed In,” DiBenedetto said he has “no ill will toward Aric” and that his intentional spin of Almirola after the checkered flag was an “overreaction” fueled by a disappointing finish.
“The only bad news that I have for everybody is that Aric and I have talked,” DiBenedetto said. “We texted back and forth after he did that interview (Tuesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). … We talked and we’re fine. No problem with Aric. Honestly a week or two before, he was racing for the lead and I was actually pulling for him to win. So I have no ill will toward Aric.”
Almirola had said he was “baffled” by DiBenedetto’s actions.
“I was blown away after the race when he come and run into the side of me and spun me out,” Almirola said. “I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was so upset about.
“I understand. I guess when you’re running back there and you’re fighting to stay on the lead lap week in and week out, racing like that, 25th is a big deal. But I was racing. I caught him off Turn 1 and drove underneath of him and passed him in the Tunnel Turn and we came back to the checkered. I finished 25th and he finished behind me (in 27th) and apparently was pretty upset about it.”
The driver of GoFas Racing’s No. 32 Ford blamed “testosterone and adrenaline all mixed together” and “a bad sequence of events” for both him and Almirola for what happened.
DiBenedetto shared his side of the story.
“We were both frustrated, because obviously (Almirola) had a strong car and he ended up with some damage, had to go to the back,” DiBenedetto said. “And our team, we’re a small team … we were probably going to finish 16th, 18th, at least top 20 at worst. The last two restarts for me worked out very, very poorly. The second to last restart the line that I was in, turned out really bad. So we stacked up and I lost a couple of spots. But on the green-white-checkered, I was going into Turn 3 and (the field) stacked up really bad. I ran into the back of (Paul Menard), we all checked up and I lost like five more spots, four or five more spots and I was absolutely furious. Just out of being passionate, because that would have been a really good run for us if we finished where I thought we deserved to run.
“So I’m all ready, really mad. On the white flag Aric and I were side-by-side and as he said, 25th, and every spot matters. … So we went into Turn 2 and he went up the race track and we were side-by-side and he kind of cleared himself, he thought he was clear, whatever happened. If I wouldn’t have checked up, I was going to hit the wall.”
After the checkered flag, DiBenedetto said he gave Almirola “a little bump” on the backstretch and then Almirola “tried to brake check me.”
“I started it,” DiBenedetto said. “Whatever, I’m not mad about that. That sparked me again and then he came back up beside me and slammed into my right-side door and then I reacted by crashing him on the back straightaway, or spinning him out. It was just an overreaction and way too much adrenaline and testosterone mixed together and … in hindsight I would never race him like that nor would he and it was a crazy situation.”
The 27-year-old driver said the incident “was more of a thing that’s conversational for after the race” and “That’s how it should have been handled after the race by me. But when all that happened, he’s frustrated, I’m frustrated. I was too angry and after the race I went up beside him and expressed my displeasure.”